In this first installment of “She Reads”, my attempt at a quasi-book club for the lover of odd-ball fiction and YA literature, I’ve selected a novel by one of my literary heroes, Daniel Handler, known most for his fame as children’s author Lemony Snicket. “Why We Broke Up” strays from the unfortunate events of the orphaned children and focuses on more real-to-life misfortune, the tragic split of a young, unlikely couple.
At first glance, and at first notice of the title, WWBU resembles the generic form of chick-lit that could be found sandwiched between stacks of Twilight and Sarah Dessen novels. But, Handler brings something fresh to the genre, he has a unique, brash, and captivating writing style that is all his own, and it keeps readers interested in an all to familiar world of heartbreak and high school love.
Handler’s satirical wit and awesome style tells the story of Min Green, a nerdy teen who met a handsome, All-American basketball player, Ed, at a party thrown for a friend’s “bitter sixteen” birthday party. The mismatched pair get together and the story reverses from there. Instead of the well-known narrative of the courtship of the two, it tells the story of how they grew to love in short scenes from their relationship, followed by a harsh statement telling Ed what he did to make her break up with him.
Min herself is a lovable, relatable, and perfect (in that way that only Handler characters can be perfect, kind-of-way). She’s obsessed with movies, which is a likable quality in anyone, and has a passion for all things film. One of the things that I love most about Handler’s writing is that he has a special eye and talent for weaving perfect professions and qualities his characters. They all have a special quirk that sets them apart. A lot of people love film, but we really see Min’s real, sincere care for film and all the things that make it great. The sweeping plots, the costumes, the theater experience, everything tickles her fancy. Coupled with her love of adventure, one finds a novel of great narrative value, the way Min tells her tale could be the scenes in multiple teen, romance, or comedy films. She also allows her love of film to take her places that keep you reading, like following (stalking) an elderly woman that she believes could have once been a black and white movie vixen.
Handler is also known for enlisting the help of charming illustrators to further the experience of reading. In his Snicket days, Handler had te help of Brett Helquist to bring the misfortune of the Baudelaire’s into our mind’s eye. Switching to YA lit, Handler was aided by the talented Maria Kalman to paint water-color like pictures that fill the pages of WWBU. These pictures show the items that Min left in a box on Ed’s front porch, all of the things that symbolize their relationship, beer caps, movies stubs, etc, all landing with a thunk on the doorstep.
Min and Ed’s tale is woven colorfully and in a web of impeccable wit. Trust me, you won’t want to tear away.
Pre-Chapter 10 Rating: ****, 4/5.